Congressman Austin Scott (R-GA-08), a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee (HAC), today spoke during a HAC hearing entitled, "21st Century Food Systems: Controlled Environment Agriculture’s Role in Protecting Domestic Food Supply Chains and Infrastructure,” on the obstacles U.S. growers face in competing with cheap foreign imports of fruits and vegetables, primarily from Mexico.

During the hearing, Rep. Scott pressed Kevin Safrance, Executive Vice Chairman of Mastronardi Produce, on this issue and the impact of cheaper labor costs in Mexico. In response to a question from Rep. Scott on what U.S.-based workers versus Mexico-based workers are paid, Mr. Safrance noted that international produce companies generally pay workers in Mexico $14-$15/day while in the U.S. they typically pay workers between $13-$15 hour, with some people reaching $20/hour. Rep. Scott contends these wage disparities play a large role in international produce growers being able to produce and then dump cheap fruits and vegetables into U.S. markets below the cost of production in the United States, making it difficult for American farmers to compete.

Rep. Scott has been very vocal on the obstacles cheap foreign produce poses on American farmers and recently introduced legislation with Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA-36) to level the playing field for seasonal and perishable growers who compete against below-market foreign imports. Click here to read more on the American Seasonal and Perishable Crop Support Act.

You can click here to watch Rep. Scott’s exchange with Kevin Safrance.

Key soundbites from the exchange:

"When we talk about sustainability and the food supply chain, why do 61% of the tomatoes we consume in the United States actually travel thousands of miles to make it to the grocery store?"

"One of the things that concerns me that our growers are facing in the United States is a $15 a day wage in Mexico versus $15 an hour here in the U.S."

"The wage disparity between the U.S. and Mexico seems to be one of the reasons why our produce has to travel so far to make it to the shelves."

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Rep. Scott: Mexico dumping cheap imports into U.S. markets creates obstacles for US growers